Monday, February 20, 2012

'SWIFT Boating' Iran: Economic War a Prelude to Military Attack

Despite, though likely because, Iran is ready to restart negotiations with the so-called P5+1 group (the five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) over its civilian nuclear program, belligerent rhetoric and sharply-worded political attacks from Israel and the United States have escalated.

Indeed, as investigative journalist Robert Parry pointed out on the Consortium News web site, arch neocon Senator Joseph Lieberman "is leading a group of nearly one-third of the U.S. Senate urging that the red line on war with Iran be shifted from building a nuclear weapon to the vague notion of Iran having the 'capability' to build one."

"In other words," Parry warned, "the next preemptive war could be launched not against Iran for actually building a bomb or even trying to build a bomb but rather for simply having the skills that theoretically could be used sometime in the future to build a bomb. The 'red line' has been moved from some possible future development to arguably what already exists."

Last week Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili wrote European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, reiterating that the Islamic Republic's willingness to return to the negotiating table "is tied to the P5+1's constructive approach to Iran's initiatives," Press TV reported.

In that letter, Iran voiced their "readiness for dialogue on a spectrum of various issues which can provide ground for constructive and forward-looking cooperation," and that talks should be approached "on step-by-step principles and reciprocity."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, flanked by Ashton at a Friday press conference that was pure Kabuki theater said "We think this is an important step, and we welcome the letter," The Washington Post reported.

"I'm cautious and I'm optimistic at the same time for this," Ashton told reporters after a gabfest with Clinton at the State Department.

"It also demonstrates the importance of the twin-track approach," Ashton told The New York Times, "referring to the international effort to intensify sanctions while leaving the door open for a diplomatic resolution of concerns about the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons."

In essence what Ashton is saying is: We have a gun pointed at your head and can pull the trigger at any time; better to capitulate now and give up your right to enrich uranium for your civilian program rather than run the risk of war.

Undeterred by implicit Western threats, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi "has reiterated Tehran's determination to continue with its peaceful nuclear program, insisting on the nation's willingness to even deal with 'the worst-case scenario'," Press TV reported Sunday.

Speaking at a news conference Salehi asserted, "Since we believe that we are right, we do not have the slightest doubt in the pursuit of our nuclear program. Therefore, we plan to move ahead with vigor and confidence and we do not take much heed of [the West's] propaganda warfare. Even in the worse-case scenario, we remain prepared."

Lambasting the West's contradictory posture, hailing Iran's willingness to renew talks with the P5+1 nations on the one hand, while raising "baseless allegations" over Iran's civilian nuclear program on the other, Salehi observed that "they [the West] have an arrogant nature, they have not learned to engage in political interactions with prudent and humane manners."

The Foreign Minister however "expressed optimism" that "Western countries, as a whole will amend their policies towards Iran."

On Monday a team of IAEA inspectors arrived in Tehran, BBC News reported. Chief inspector Herman Nackaerts said their "highest priority" was to clarify the "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program.

Although the Agency had described their last visit in January as "positive," saying that Iran was "committed to resolving all outstanding issues," as in the case of Iraq a decade ago, an unnamed U.S. official told The New York Times that the meeting was "a disaster" that demonstrated Iranian "foot-dragging."

The IAEA's board of governors "is scheduled to convene on March 5 in Vienna, the same day on which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to give a speech in Washington at a meeting of the annual policy conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee," Haaretz disclosed.

Talk about coincidences!

'SWIFT-Boating' Iran

In her remarks last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that any resumption of talks "will have to be a sustained effort that can produce results." Translation: "Iran will give in to all our demands--or else."

The "or else" wasn't long in coming.

In fact on Friday, the same day that Ashton and Clinton expressed "cautious optimism" over a resumption of P5+1 talks, the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT network, "bowed to international pressure," Reuters reported, "and said it was ready to block Iranian banks from using its network to transfer money."

So much for "confidence building" measures ahead of negotiations!

Washington's latest move to strangle the Iranian economy, follow efforts by the U.S. and EU to enact crippling sanctions that would punish countries and financial institutions if they do not cut-off purchases of Iranian oil.

However, the Associated Press reported last week, "American attempts to get major Asian importers of Iranian oil to rein in their purchases are faltering as allies South Korea and Japan give U.S. officials a polite brushoff."

"Emerging giants India and China may even increase their purchases," AP disclosed.

Indeed, as a close ally of Tehran "China has also dug its heels in--in fact, far deeper than either South Korea or Japan. Beijing turned a blind eye to efforts by American Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to get it to cut back on Iranian imports during a January visit."

"Earlier this month," AP reported, "the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily described Western efforts to pressure Iran with an oil embargo as 'casting a shadow over the global economy'."

In this light, the move to cut-off Iranian banks from the SWIFT network will have far-reaching ramifications and will surely intensify Washington's geopolitical machinations targeting their Asian capitalist rivals.

In an email published by Reuters, the private company declared that "SWIFT stands ready to act and discontinue its services to sanctioned Iranian financial institutions as soon as it has clarity on EU legislation currently being drafted."

The Iranian response quickly followed the announcement. Last week, Iran said it would "immediately" order a preemptive embargo of crude oil exports to six recession-hit European nations--Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, France and the Netherlands.

"It took virtually no time for Iran's Oil Ministry and then the Foreign Ministry to deny it," Asia Times Online analyst Pepe Escobar wrote.

"But only the deaf, dumb and blind wouldn't understand the message; blowback for the ridiculously counter-productive European sanctions/oil embargo package will only plunge vast swathes of Europe further into deep economic pain," Escobar observed.

Making good on a pledge approved by Parliament earlier this month, the Iranian Oil Ministry announced it has cut oil exports "to British and French firms in line with the decision to end crude exports to six European states," Press TV disclosed Sunday.

Oil Ministry spokesperson Alireza Nikzad-Rahbar said that Iran would have no problem exporting and selling crude oil to its customers.

"We have our own oil customers and replacements for these [British and French] companies have already been chosen and we will sell the crude oil to new customers instead of the British and French companies," Nikzad-Rahbar averred.

On Monday, Iran's Deputy Oil Minister Ahmad Qalebani "hinted at the possibility of a halt in oil exports to Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, Germany, Italy and Portugal," Press TV disclosed.

"Undoubtedly if the hostile actions of certain European countries continue, oil exports to these countries will be stopped," Qalebani said.

Call it round two of a new tit-for-tat oil war where almost everyone loses.

As financial jackals and capitalist hyenas lusting after publicly-owned assets in cash-strapped EU states such as Greece, Italy and Spain move in for the kill, Washington's one-two punch against Iran and recession-hammered EU workers will have have the salutary effect of hastening "reform," i.e., the immiseration of millions of proletarians "transitioning" to their new role as low-paid wage slaves in a global order lorded over by Wall Street and the City of London.

In a Press TV interview, two Italian lawmakers voiced "their serious concern about Tehran halting oil exports to some European states."

Democratic Party Senator Francesco Ferrante told the Iranian news outlet that "Rome is currently importing a great deal of its needed oil from Iran."

"As a result, Italy will suffer more than other countries from the decision of cutting oil supplies to European states taken by the Iranian government," he added.

Ferrante said that "Italians' everyday lives will be affected as fuel prices are likely to go up [as a result of Iran oil cut]. The [oil] cut will also have negative consequences on Italian companies."

Another senator, Stefano Saglia from Italy's People of Liberty Party, told Press TV: "Without a doubt, Italy is the European country that will be damaged the most from this situation as Iran and Italy have always been close business partners."

And with a massive strike wave earlier this month against harsh austerity measures imposed on Italy's combative working class by the unelected government of Prime Minister Mario Monti, the European Chairman of David Rockefeller's Trilateral Commission and a leading member of the shadowy Bilderberg Group, an Iranian oil boycott could send the Italian economy over the cliff.

As a result of escalating tensions, Forbes reported on Friday that the price of crude oil "has gone on a nice rally in February and a perfect storm has brewed that promises to take it higher."

"Markets have underestimated how tight global oil markets truly are," Forbes disclosed. So much for U.S. fantasies that Saudi Arabia or the Gulf monarchies will make up any shortfalls that arise from removing Iranian oil from international markets.

"Supply-side issues, particularly the problems around Iran, and demand-side issues, especially very strong Asian and Chinese demand, will help take prices higher. A weak U.S. dollar adds a final drop that could take U.S. prices to $118 a barrel by the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Barclays."

"West Texas Intermediate contracts for March delivery, currently trading at $103.52 a barrel, have gained on eight of the last ten trading days while Brent, the international benchmark, recorded six positive sessions over the same time frame and was at $119.62 as of 4:20PM in New York on Friday," Forbes reported.

Following Monday's report that Iran may be poised to halt oil shipments to additional EU states, "crude for March delivery rose as much as $2.20 to $105.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest intraday price since May 5," Bloomberg News reported.

"The more actively traded April contract gained $1.64 to $105.45. Prices increased 4.6 percent last week and are up 6.1 percent so far this year." Additionally, "Brent oil for April settlement on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange climbed as much as $1.57, or 1.3 percent, to $121.15 a barrel.

According to Christopher Bellew, "a senior broker at Jefferies Bache Ltd. in London, who correctly predicted last week that the price of Brent crude would advance to $120 a barrel," increasing tensions in the Persian Gulf "continues to support prices," Bloomberg noted.

Commenting on the deteriorating situation, NusConsulting Group analyst Richard Soultanian told Forbes that "Market prices currently reflect a significant risk premia for the potential of a supply disruption from a geopolitical event," i.e., a "preemptive" attack on Iran. "However, the amount of risk premia currently included does not fully account for an actual event/supply disruption."

In plain English, should a U.S./Israeli/NATO attack force Iran's hand into closing the strategic energy chokepoint, the Strait of Hormuz, as a defensive response to Western aggression, global energy prices will skyrocket and quickly wreck havoc on recession-plagued capitalist economies.

According to Barclay analysts, "Our view remains that policy and circumstances are now both running fast enough for policy accidents and unintended consequences to play a role. In other words, in our view, the probability of the situation becoming 'hot' in some way that affects the oil market is now significant and perhaps rising, in a way which makes the maintenance of too entrenched a short position in the market increasingly difficult."

Will the SWIFT cut-off work? "Hardly," according to Asia Times. "It will certainly represent more devastation unleashed over 'the Iranian people'--the vague entity of choice against which the US has 'no quarrel.' More than 40 Iranian banks use SWIFT to process financial transactions, and Iranians use it like everybody else in a globalized economy."

However, Pepe Escobar writes, "it will drag SWIFT's carefully maintained reputation for trust and neutrality through the mud; imagine other member countries' reaction to the fact they can also be totally marginalized according to the US's whims."

The "message" was delivered to the Europeans "Mafia-style" Escobar averred, "in person" by David Cohen, U.S. Treasury Department Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

On Friday Cohen told The Washington Post that cutting-off Iranian access to SWIFT "would build on earlier U.S. efforts to exclude Iranian banks from international commerce."

"It's another good turn of the screw," Cohen said.


"If the Washington/Tel Aviv-promoted hysteria is already at fever pitch," Asia Times warned, "wait for March 20, when the Iranian oil bourse will start trading oil in other currencies apart from the US dollar, heralding the arrival of a new oil marker to be denominated in euro, yen, yuan, rupee or a basket of currencies."

"That may be the straw to break the American camel's back."

Sometime in March, the USS Enterprise, along with a large contingent of U.S. Marines will join two other aircraft carrier battle groups and NATO warships and enter waters off Iran's coast.

Earlier this month, the Enterprise and NATO military units, including forces from Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand concluded maneuvers, including large-scale amphibious landings against an unnamed "hostile power."

The menacing tone of U.S. rhetoric was matched by the deployment of American firepower. The Associated Press reported last week that U.S. Fifth Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Mark Fox said that the Navy has "built a wide range of potential options to give the president" and is "ready today" to confront any hostile action by Tehran.

"We've developed very precise and lethal weapons that are very effective, and we're prepared," AP reported. "We're just ready for any contingency."

As the World Socialist Web Site recently pointed out, what Fox and other Pentagon big wigs have "outlined is the classic scenario for a US provocation that could provide the pretext for war--the appearance of 'Iranian' mines, an inflammatory media campaign and a US attack on Iranian naval assets that rapidly escalates into all-out conflict."

"The US has a history of manufacturing naval episodes to serve as a casus belli," Peter Symonds warned. "The notorious Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, in which Vietnamese PT boats allegedly attacked a US destroyer, was exploited to obtain congressional approval for a massive US military intervention in Indochina."

Today, with the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration marching in "lockstep" with Israel as it plans to launch a "preemptive" war of aggression against Iran, and as the administration allies itself, once again, with the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets, also known as Al Qaeda, in its "regime change" program targeting Iran's ally, Syria, a major global conflict is a provocation away.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Iran Escalation: All the Elements for War Are Coming Together

With all the bluster of late in Western media that President Obama is assiduously working to "restrain" Israel from launching a preemptive attack on Iran, recent developments should put paid the lies of this dog-and-pony show.

Last Sunday during an interview with NBC News, the president made it clear that "all options" regarding plans for a joint U.S.-Israeli attack "are on the table." Far from distancing his government from the strident rhetoric emanating from Tel Aviv, Obama added that the administration is working "in lockstep" with Israel to "prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon."

Never mind that unlike Israel, which is estimated to possess upwards of 200 nuclear weapons, as a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Iran is perfectly within its rights under international law to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.

Indeed in December 2003, the Islamic Republic signed an additional protocol authorizing IAEA inspectors to make intrusive, snap inspections of their nuclear facilities and have expressed a willingness to negotiate an end to the Western-manufactured "standoff."

In our Orwellian Empire however, "diplomacy" is a convenient cover--and political talking point--for war and regime change. "Again," Obama told NBC News, "our goal is to resolve this diplomatically. That would be preferable. We're not going to take options off the table, though."

The president followed-up his threats on Monday when he signed an executive order freezing "all Iranian government and financial institutions' assets that are under U.S. jurisdiction," Bloomberg News reported.

According to the White House, Obama took the additional step towards cratering Iran's economy and cited "'deceptive practices' of the Iranian central bank in hiding transactions of sanctioned parties and its failure to prevent money laundering, concluding that Iran activities pose an 'unacceptable risk' to the international financial system."

If only Obama's "neocon-lite" regime had taken similar measures to rein-in the fraudulent and patently "deceptive practices" of the big Western capitalist financial firms that continue to pose an "unacceptable risk" to the economic and social well-being of the global proletariat!

Nigel Kushner, the CEO of the London-based Whale Rock Legal told Bloomberg that "the practical impact is less important than the message it sends to Iran." The analyst went on to say that the new executive order is "a declaration of economic warfare, to the extent that it's not already been declared," Bloomberg averred.

Accordingly, the asset freeze blocks "all property and interests in property belonging to the Iranian government, its central bank, and all Iranian financial institutions, even those that haven't been designated for sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department," and is one more sign that "hope and change" fraudsters in Washington have taken these steps as deliberate provocations.

This is spelled out quite clearly by neocon Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the oxymoronic Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), which has rightly been described as the successor organization of the infamous Project for the New American Century.

Last summer, an exposé of the organization by Eli Clifton at Think Progress revealed that FDD's über-rich donors include individuals who, like Obama, march "in lockstep" with Israel's Likud party.

According to Clifton's research, FDD sugar daddies include: U.S. Healthcare CEO Leonard Abramson, the head of the Abramson Family Foundation ($822,000); Edgar M. and Charles Bronfman, heirs to the Seagram liquor fortune (($1,050,000); Home Depot cofounder Bernard Marcus ($600,000); mortgage backed securities "pioneer," Lewis Rainieri ($350,000); "hedge fund mogul" Michael Steinhardt ($850,000) and Ameriquest owner and former Bush administration ambassador to the Netherlands, Roland Arnall ($1,802,000).

"Most of the major donors," Clifton wrote, are active philanthropists to 'pro-Israel' causes both in the U.S. and internationally," who "helped promote the 'Bush doctrine' which led to the invasion of Iraq" and are doing so today with the ginned-up crisis over Iran.

Dubowitz told Bloomberg that Obama's new executive order was "the logical next step in the 'administration's economic war on the Iranian regime'." He gloated that "freezing assets of Iran's central bank and its government institutions, including the National Iranian Oil Company, makes them 'subject to much tougher enforcement by the U.S. government and the global financial sector'."

In response, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast told Tehran Times Tuesday, that "the issue of sanctions pursued by Western countries and U.S. officials is not a new issue. The issue... is regarded as a hostile measure and indicates that officials of Western countries, particularly the Americans, have not yet come to know our great nation."

"If illogical pressure and inhumane methods are used to hinder the progress of the country and to prevent it from achieving its rights," Mehmanparast said "they (countries that impose sanctions) will definitely not receive a pleasant response from our nation."

Military Build-Up Accelerates

War is not pursued by economic means alone, however.

On the military front, Navy Times reported last week that the "essence" of a massive war game carried out along the U.S. east coast, "Bold Alligator 2012" was "planning, staging and getting them here--and not a few platoons, not a Marine Expeditionary Unit but an entire Marine Expeditionary Brigade that could number upwards of 14,500 Marines and sailors."

According to the right-wing Israeli publication Debkafile, the "Bold Alligator" drill "is the largest amphibian exercise seen in the West for a decade, staged to simulate a potential Iranian invasion of an allied Persian Gulf country and a marine landing on the Iranian coast."

As part of the exercise, three Marine Corps gunship carriers that practiced an amphibious landing and attacked a "hostile" mechanized enemy division which had "invaded its neighbor."

Practicing alongside their U.S. counterparts, "French, British, Italian, Dutch, Australian and New Zealand military elements are integrated in the drill."

Debkafile reported that "Bold Alligator" is "led by the USS Enterprise nuclear carrier with strike force alongside three amphibian helicopter carriers, the USS Wasp, the USS Boxer and the USS Kearsage."

"On their decks," the Israeli publication averred, "are 6,000 Marines, 25 fighter bombers and 65 strike and transport helicopters, mainly MV-22B Ospreys with their crews. Altogether 100 combat aircraft are involved."

Coinciding with naval exercises currently underway in the Persian Gulf, when the "Bold Alligator" war games end, "the participants are to be shipped out to Persian Gulf positions opposite Iran. Altogether three American aircraft carrier strike groups, the French Charles de Gaulle carrier and four or five US Marines amphibian vessels will be posted there," Debkafile's military sources report.

As war drums beat louder, researcher Rick Rozoff at Stop NATO revealed that during a January 30 meeting, President Obama "met with his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili in the Oval Office at the White House for an unprecedented private meeting between the heads of state, a tête-à-tête initiated by Washington."

Rozoff reports that "Obama had summoned the ambitious and erratic Georgian leader to Washington to propose a quid pro quo: The use of Georgian territory for American attacks on Iran in exchange for the U.S. exercising its not inconsiderable influence in Georgia--with a population of only 4.7 million the third largest recipient of American foreign aid--to assist in securing Saakashvili's reelection in next year's presidential poll."

The move was denounced by former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, "who was overthrown by Saakashvili's self-styled Rose Revolution in 2003," a U.S.-financed "civil society coup" that installed an American-educated puppet in power in Tbilisi. Shevardnadze warned, "I don't rule out that to retain the [presidential] chair Saakashvili may join a military campaign against Iran, which would become a catastrophe for our country."

"Georgian analysts and opposition party leaders seconded Shevardnadze's suspicions, specifying that the Saakashvili regime would provide air bases and hospitals, of which a veritable proliferation have appeared in recent months, for such a war effort."

"A Georgian opposition analyst estimated that 30 new 20-bed hospitals and medical clinics were opened last December and that new air and naval sites are being built and modernized, military air fields in Vaziani, Marneuli and Batumi most ominously," Rozoff wrote.

Similarly, The Jerusalem Post, citing a piece that appeared Saturday in The Times, reported that Azerbaijan, which shares a long border with Iran, "is teeming with Mossad agents working to collect intelligence on the happenings within the Islamic Republic."

"This is ground zero for our intelligence work," an anonymous Mossad intelligence operative told The Times. "Our presence here is quiet, but substantial. We have increased our presence in the past year, and it gets us very close to Iran. This is a wonderfully porous country."

One might say, a "wonderfully porous country" for staging terror attacks, as NBC News revealed last week.

According to Richard Engel and Robert Windrem, "deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel's secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran's leaders."

That group the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department, enjoys considerable support amongst Washington's power elite as The Christian Science Monitor disclosed last summer.

Indeed, "a high-powered array of former top American officials," from Rudy Giuliani to Howard Dean, "have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK."

While Obama administration officials have tried to distance the U.S. secret state from the Mossad's assassination program, as Richard Silverstein noted on the left-wing Tikun Olam web site: "One aspect of this report, however, is misleading. The U.S. officials who confirm Mossad involvement in these plots carefully note that the U.S. is not participating. That, unfortunately is not quite true. The Bush administration allocated $400-million for this black ops war against Iran. A good portion of this is suspected of funding Israel's efforts. So it is highly likely that we are the paymasters for this effort and our denials ring hollow."

But the Iranian terror cult's connections to the CIA don't stop there. In fact, "law enforcement officials have told NBC News that in 1994, the MEK made a pact with terrorist Ramzi Yousef a year after he masterminded the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City," Engel and Windrem wrote.

"According to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Yousef built an 11-pound bomb that MEK agents placed inside one of Shia Islam's greatest shrines in Mashad, Iran, on June 20, 1994. At least 26 people, mostly women and children, were killed and 200 wounded in the attack."

Yousef, the nephew of reputed "9/11 mastermind" Khalid Sheik Mohammad, was the top bombmaker for Osama Bin Laden's Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets, also known as Al Qaeda, who had a long history of close collaboration with the CIA and Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence agency before "going off the reservation" in the early 1990s.

These connections, and links, to Western destabilization operations are hardly historical relics of Washington's anticommunist jihad against the former Soviet Union, as Peter Dale Scott pointed out in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus last summer.

Scott noted that "Americans have used al-Qaeda as a resource to increase their influence, for example Azerbaijan in 1993. There a pro-Moscow president was ousted after large numbers of Arab and other foreign mujahedin veterans were secretly imported from Afghanistan, on an airline hastily organized by three former veterans of the CIA's airline Air America."

And today, with foreign fighters flooding into Syria, including Libyan jihadist elements armed and trained by the CIA and MI6, it should hardly come as a shock that Al Qaeda's "emir," Ayman al-Zawahri, in a reprise of Islamist-backed efforts in alliance with the CIA in Afghanistan during the 1980s "urged Muslims in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan to come to the aid of Syrian rebels confronting Assad's forces," Reuters reported Sunday.

Western operations against Syria are viewed as a prelude to an all-out attack on Iran as Michel Chossudovsky and other analysts describe in a new series published by Global Research.

Indeed, U.S. war planners have presented regional military commanders with a target list that include "beyond Iran's nuclear facilities, communications systems; air defense and missile sites; Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities; munitions storage facilities, including those for sea mines (remember the Strait of Hormuz); airfields and aircraft facilities; and ship and port facilities, including midget submarines, missile boats and minelayers," The Washington Post disclosed.

"Aircraft employed," the Post averred, "would include B-2 stealth and B-52 bombers, fighter-bombers and helicopters, along with ship-launched cruise missiles."

In other words, Washington is contemplating a massive air and sea bombardment followed by a land invasion, as the "Bold Alligator 2012" drill suggests, with the express purpose of forcing "regime change" in Tehran.

As analyst Peter Symonds pointed out in the World Socialist Web Site, "While the US and its allies insist that Iran must satisfy 'international concerns' about its nuclear programs, the demands for 'clarification' are endless."

"IAEA inspectors visited Iran on January 29-31 and are due to return for further discussions later this month," Symonds wrote. "No report has been released, but the US and international media nevertheless accused Tehran of 'obfuscation' and 'time wasting'."

Ominously, Haaretz reported that a new dossier "to be issued next month by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran's nuclear program is expected to be harsher than the last one, which the IAEA released in November."

According to Haaretz, "the agency's board of governors is scheduled to convene on March 5 in Vienna, the same day on which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to give a speech in Washington at a meeting of the annual policy conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee."

Netanyahu is also scheduled to meet with Obama where talks on the "international response" to the "threat from Tehran" will take center stage. Isn't that a coincidence!

"The reality," the World Socialist Web Site noted, "is that nothing short of complete capitulation to all Washington's demands--not only on the nuclear issue, but its relations with the Syrian government and groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as its alleged 'interference' in Iraq and Afghanistan--would end the US build-up to war."

"In short," Symonds observed, "Washington is pressing for a regime in Tehran that bows to American economic and strategic interests in the Middle East and Central Asia on every significant issue."

"For all the talk about 'diplomacy' and 'sanctions,' the World Socialist Web Site warned, "the US is recklessly setting course for a war with Iran that threatens to engulf the Middle East and spread internationally."

The clock is ticking...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Israel to the United States: 'We'll Give You the War, You Give Us the Cannon Fodder'

The dogs of war are off the leash.

In meeting rooms in London, Tel Aviv and Washington the dice have been thrown: snake eyes.

Flashback, 1963: When John F. Kennedy decided not to escalate the soon-to-be disastrous Vietnam war and issued National Security Action Memorandum 263 (NSAM 263), he signed his death warrant.

Scarcely six weeks after vowing to pull all American forces out of South Vietnam by 1965, Kennedy was dead, the target of an "executive action" orchestrated by the CIA, a coup d'état on behalf of America's corporatist masters--the military-industrial cabal of hardline cold warriors who stood to lose billions if Kennedy lived.

That sweet little deal to "win" the war in Southeast Asia cost some two million Vietnamese lives, 58,000 dead Americans and precipitated an economic crisis which dealt a death blow to post-World War II prosperity and launched the United States on its inexorable glide path towards becoming a failed state.

Flash forward to 2012: We have Barack Obama in the White House; a fraudster who promised "hope and change" and instead led his wilfully blind constituents into embracing the third term of a George W. Bush administration.

Comparing Obama with Kennedy one can only conclude: They don't make bourgeois politicians like they use to!

Following on from a decades-long drive to transform the Gulf into an "American lake" (under provisions of the so-called "Carter Doctrine," another "peace loving" Democrat), the coming war with Iran is a transparent scheme to ensure U.S. hegemony over the vast petroleum resources of Central Asia and the Middle East--to the detriment of their geopolitical rivals.

U.S. and NATO naval forces on high alert threaten the free flow of oil in the Persian Gulf, the life's blood of the global capitalist economy.

A war will lead to an oil price spike as Iranian, but perhaps also Saudi and GCC oil is removed in one fell swoop from the market, thereby setting-off a chain reaction that will exacerbate the West's economic decline--to the benefit of financial jackals waiting in the wings who will gobble up what remains of America and Europe's publicly-owned assets at fire sale prices in a desperate move to stave off the crisis.

Currently, Iran is ringed with military bases. American, British and Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles keep silent watch. Aircraft carrier battle groups carry out provocative maneuvers. U.S. and Israeli drones routinely overfly Iranian territory. Scientists are murdered in orchestrated terror attacks. Defense installations are bombed.

Economic sanctions, universally recognized as a prelude to war, strangle the Iranian people and their economy, all in the quixotic hope of inducing (coercing) "regime change" in Tehran.

The U.S. media, reprising their role during the run-up to 2003's invasion and occupation of Iraq, are chock-a-block with scare stories that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are preparing to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States.

Indeed, the Shiite regime "may have" given "new freedoms" to Sunni Salafist extremists, including members of the "management council" of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets also known as "Al Qaeda" detained in Iran and "may have provided some material aid to the terrorist group," if an account published last week by The Wall Street Journal can be believed, which of course it can't.

Meanwhile, the CIA and Mossad recruit, train and then unleash Salafist terrorists such as Jundallah or Saddam Hussein's former henchmen, the cultic Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) for terror ops, just as they did in Libya when former Al Qaeda "emir," the MI6 asset Abdelhakim Belhaj was appointed chief of Tripoli's Revolutionary Military Council.

And what "evidence" did U.S. officials offer for these dastardly Iranian plots to murder us all in our beds? Why the now-discredited FBI fable which had a failed Texas used-car dealer, Manssor Arbabsiar, and a still-unnamed DEA snitch posing as or actually a member of the notorious Zetas narcotrafficking cartel, plotting to murder the Saudi ambassador by blowing up a tony Georgetown restaurant, that's what!

Former CIA chief Leon Panetta, who replaced Robert Gates, also a former CIA chief, now helms the Defense Department.

Corporate media in Europe and America report that Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, have tried to "cool" the Israeli's ardor for a preemptive strike and deny that the U.S. is preparing for war.

This too, is a carefully contrived disinformation campaign.

In a syndicated column for The Washington Post, war hawk David Ignatius wrote Thursday that "Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June--before Iran enters what Israelis described as a 'zone of immunity' to commence building a nuclear bomb."

According to Ignatius, "the administration appears to favor staying out of the conflict unless Iran hits U.S. assets, which would trigger a strong U.S. response," and that Washington's alleged disapproval of an Israeli first strike "might open a breach like the one in 1956, when President Dwight Eisenhower condemned an Israeli-European attack on the Suez Canal."

Ignatius' unnamed "senior administration official," since identified as Panetta, "caution that Tehran shouldn't misunderstand: The United States has a 60-year commitment to Israeli security, and if Israel's population centers were hit, the United States could feel obligated to come to Israel's defense."

In other words, should America's "stationary aircraft carrier in the Middle East" launch a sneak-attack on Iran, hitting their civilian nuclear and defense installations, thereby inflicting "collateral damage," i.e., the wanton slaughter of innocent Iranian citizens, if Tehran has the temerity to defend itself and strike back, the full military might of the imperialist godfather will be brought to bear.

Inter Press Service reported Wednesday that JCS Chairman Dempsey, "told Israeli leaders Jan. 20 that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, according to accounts from well-placed senior military officers."

According to journalist Gareth Porter, "Dempsey's warning, conveyed to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by President Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the United States is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran."

Claiming that "Obama still appears reluctant to break publicly and explicitly with Israel over its threat of military aggression against Iran, even in the absence of evidence Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon," Porter alleges that "the message carried by Dempsey was the first explicit statement to the Netanyahu government that the United States would not defend Israel if it attacked Iran unilaterally."

Holding onto the thinnest of reeds, Porter writes that Panetta "had given a clear hint" of the U.S. position "in an interview on 'Face the Nation' Jan. 8 that the Obama administration would not help defend Israel in a war against Iran that Israel had initiated."

When asked by CBS host Bob Schieffer, who pressed the issue of a unilateral Israeli attack, Panetta said, "If the Israelis made that decision, we would have to be prepared to protect our forces in that situation. And that's what we'd be concerned about."

What are we to make of these claims?

If their purpose was to force Israel to rethink their attack plans, it clearly isn't working. If however, Panetta's remarks were meant to disarm domestic opponents of U.S. war plans, then mission accomplished!

"Speaking at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center's annual conference," The Christian Science Monitor reported that "Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak compared the current standoff with Iran to the 'fateful' period before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt."

"The temperature is rising in Israel," Iran analyst Meir Javedanfar told the Monitor. "He says that if the defense minister sees the current period as similar to the run-up to the [1967] Six-Day War, 'that gives credibility to those who think Israel is going to launch an attack'."

In a follow-up piece published Saturday by IPS, Porter now suggests that Panetta's leak to Ignatius "had a different objective," namely that the "White House was taking advantage of the current crisis atmosphere over that Israeli threat and even seeking to make it more urgent in order to put pressure on Iran to make diplomatic concessions to the United States and its allies on its nuclear programme in the coming months."

Indeed, the "Panetta leak makes it less likely that either Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Iranian strategists will take seriously Obama's effort to keep the United States out of a war initiated by an Israeli attack."

Moreover, Panetta's leak to The Washington Post "seriously undercut the message carried to the Israelis by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last month that the United States would not come to Israel's defence if it launched a unilateral attack on Iran."

Although there is trepidation amongst military planners in Tel Aviv and Washington should Israeli officials opt for a preemptive attack on Iran--and a retaliatory counterstrike by the Islamic Republic would have devastating effects on both Israel's civilian population and U.S./NATO military forces in the Persian Gulf and beyond--should such disastrous orders be given, it is a certainty that Washington would follow suit.

This in fact, is what the Israeli leadership is banking on and, contrary to sanctioned leaks to media conduits like Ignatius, is fully in keeping with Washington's strategy of employing Israel as a cats' paw to "drag" the United States into a war with Iran.

As the World Socialist Web Site points out, "any differences between the US and Israel are purely tactical."

"Washington could of course use its considerable influence to veto an attack by Israel, which is heavily dependent on the US, diplomatically, economically and militarily," leftist critic Peter Symonds writes.

Ignatius' column however, "makes no mention of this possibility. In effect, the Obama administration appears to be giving Israel a tacit green light for an illegal, unprovoked attack on Iran, and threatening its own military action if Iran retaliates."

Indeed, the right-wing Israeli publication Debkafile reported Saturday that while Panetta "has been outspoken about a possible Israeli offensive against Iran taking place as of April ... no US source is leveling on the far more extensive American, Saudi, British, French and Gulf states' preparations going forward for an offensive against the Islamic Republic."

Accordingly, Debkafile's "military sources" (read high-placed intelligence and military officials favoring an attack) "report a steady flow of many thousands of US troops for some weeks to two strategic islands within reach of Iran, Oman's Masirah just south of the Strait of Hormuz and Socotra, between Yemen and the Horn of Africa."

Debkafile also noted that "the Saudis this week wound up their own intensive preparations for war. Large forces are now deployed around Saudi oil fields, pipelines and export facilities in the eastern provinces opposite the Persian Gulf, backed by anti-missile Patriot PAC-3 batteries. American, British and French fighter-bombers have been landing at Saudi air bases to safeguard the capital, Riyadh."

And with the Pentagon speeding-up arms sales to repressive Gulf monarchies and Saudi royals (with tens of billions in profits flowing into the coffers of American and European death merchants), the stage is now set for a bloody military confrontation.

On the so-called diplomatic front, as "useful idiots" and "accessories before the fact" in the drive towards war, the shameful part played by the International Atomic Energy Agency must be underscored.

Despite, or more likely because Iran's top leadership have expressed their willingness to reopen stalled talks over their civilian nuclear program and have taken steps to do so, the United States and NATO are stepping-up their propaganda offensive, with the IAEA playing a leading role.

Indeed, The New York Times reported Sunday that "American and European officials said Friday that a mission by international nuclear inspectors to Tehran this week had failed to address their key concerns, indicating that Iran's leaders believe they can resist pressure to open up the nation's nuclear program."

Times' stenographers Robert F. Worth and David E. Sanger averred that an unnamed "senior American official described the session between the agency and Iranian nuclear officials as 'foot-dragging at best and a disaster at worst'."

Why is the onus solely placed on Iranian negotiators?

Because "members of the I.A.E.A. delegation were told that they could not have access to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an academic who is widely believed to be in charge of important elements of the suspected weaponization program, and that they could not visit a military site where the agency's report suggested key experiments on weapons technology might have been carried out."

What Worth and Sanger fail to mention in their report is that Iranian officials asserted that before Roshan's murder he "had talked to IAEA inspectors, a fact which 'indicates that these UN agencies may have played a role in leaking information on Iran's nuclear facilities and scientists'," Russia Today reported at the time.

Protesting the killing before the UN Security Council last month, Iranian deputy UN ambassador Eshagh Al Habib said there was "'high suspicion' that, in order to prepare the murder, terrorist circles used intelligence obtained from UN bodies."

According to the deputy ambassador's charge, "this included interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the sanction list of the Security Council," RT disclosed.

Sound far-fetched, the product of Iranian "conspiracy theories"? Better think again!

As former UNSCOM Iraq weapons' inspector Scott Ritter revealed in his 2005 book, Iraq Confidential, "The issue of uncovering incriminating documentation suddenly took on a higher priority, and the CIA, supported by activist elements within the Department of State, pushed for more direct involvement in the operations of UNSCOM and the IAEA. For the first time, the darkest warriors in the CIA's covert army, the Operations Planning Cell (OPC), were getting actively involved in preparing intelligence for UNSCOM's use."

According to Ritter, "The secret warriors of the CIA were accustomed to plying their trade in the shadows, far away from prying eyes. UNSCOM inspections, however, were carried out in full view of the Iraqi government, representing the antithesis of covert action. The existence of the OPC, as with any CIA affiliation with UNSCOM, was a carefully guarded secret. Officially, therefore, all OPC personnel were presented to UNSCOM as State Department 'experts'."

In light of past practices by the CIA, or for that matter the IAEA itself, Iranian fears that their scientists are being set-up for liquidation are fully justified.

Indeed, the "cautious" U.S. Secretary of Defense, former CIA chief Leon Panetta, speaking at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday, echoed Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's claim that Israel would need to "consider taking action" should nuclear inspections and sanctions fail.

"My view is that right now the most important thing is to keep the international community unified in keeping that pressure on, to try to convince Iran that they shouldn't develop a nuclear weapon, that they should join the international family of nations and that they should operate by the rules that we all operate by," Panetta asserted. "But I have to tell you, if they don't, we have all options on the table, and we'll be prepared to respond if we have to."

One of those "options," passed by the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Friday were demands made to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT.

"The new Senate package," Reuters reported, "seeks to target foreign banks that handle transactions for Iran's national oil and tanker companies, and for the first time, extends the reach of Iran-related sanctions to foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies."

The new legislation would target SWIFT with wide-ranging penalties if they failed to exclude sanctioned Iranian banks from the international system.

The bill now goes to the full Senate "where the likelihood of passage is considered strong," The New York Times reported.

With the Orwellian title, the "Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act" Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) said that "Iran can end its suppression of its own people, come clean on its nuclear program, suspend enrichment and stop supporting terrorist activities around the globe. Or it can continue to face sustained, intensifying multilateral economic and diplomatic pressure deepening its international isolation."

Now if only Senator Johnson offered similar demands on America's Israeli allies who possess upwards of 200 nuclear weapons, refuse to join the international nonproliferation regime and carry out worldwide terrorist attacks with impunity, perhaps then diplomacy would operate on a level playing field!

SWIFT officials were quick to cave to U.S. pressure. "SWIFT fully understands and appreciates the gravity of the situation," Reuters disclosed.

In its statement, "SWIFT said it is working with officials and central banks to find 'the right multilateral legal framework' to 'expedite' a response to the issues."

"This is a complex situation, and SWIFT needs to ensure that it takes into consideration the implications to the functioning of the broader global financial payments system, as well as the continued flow of humanitarian payments to the Iranian people," the organization said.

Needless to say, a boycott of Iranian financial institutions by SWIFT would be catastrophic to Iran's economy, a provocation fully intended as a step towards war.

As the World Socialist Web Site noted, "if Israel does attack Iran, it will not simply be 'a surgical strike' that destroys Iran's key nuclear facilities. Any Iranian retaliation will be used by the US as a pretext for a massive air war aimed at destroying the country's military and infrastructure. As a result, any conflict carries a real danger of becoming a regional war that could embroil the major powers."

Despite the evident madness of countenancing an Iran attack, political calculations by capitalist elites during a critical election year in the United States, with "conservative" and "liberal" factions angling for advantage by currying favor with the powerful Zionist and U.S. defense lobbies, Israel's unambiguous message to the White House is: "We'll give you the war, you give us the cannon fodder."